Preparing Myself for A Winter in Isolation

Yes, there is still a global pandemic happening, and yes, we are on the brink of cooler weather here in Canada. These two facts have got me a little terrified lately, to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in love with my life and my family, but the prospect of being housebound for an entire Canadian winter (approximate length: Nov-April) with three children under school age is a little daunting, especially considering that Tom and I are struggled to keep our heads above the chaos for the last month even with both of us at home full-time.

The fear of him going back to work in mid October has been so intense that I’ve had to fight this past month to stay in the joy of the present moment. In an effort to alleviate some of the dread and anxiety I’ve felt about it, I’ve been trying to prepare myself in advance. For me this means two things: 1. coming up with a plan and 2. putting that plan into list form. Type A’s you feel me? So here are some ways I’m hoping to soften the blow.

Setting Myself Up for Success: on a very basic level, figure out what the most difficult parts of your day are. For me with two kids plus a newborn this is easy to figure out: I don’t have enough hands for the amount of kids I have! My challenges this winter will be feeding the kids (and myself) when I don’t have hands, and putting the newborn down for a nap (it can take a while, and the other two will be either destroying the house or standing outside the door screaming). To prepare, I’ve been focusing on stocking up on one-handed snacks and meals just like I did when I was in university. Overnight oats for breakfast and pre-made burritos and salad in a jar for lunch. I’m also preparing the kids lunchboxes the night before just like I would if they were going off to school, which saves me from having to think about feeding them during the day. This past week we’ve also attempted to get our one-month-old onto a (very loose) nap schedule (lol, a losing battle). Other than that I’m keeping expectations very low and as long as we make a small amount of progress over time I’ll be happy.

Giving Myself Something to Look Forward to (however minor): I’m an introvert and a homebody and I still find it depressing af to have what I call “empty day timer syndrome” (aka nothing to look forward to for an entire winter except for maybe a chat with a public health nurse when the baby goes for her 2 month shots). Ideas could include: a nice morning coffee ritual, date nights at home, a weekly rain-or-shine meet-up outdoors with a friend, a regular virtual coffee date with your mom, Saturday morning Starbucks, a new season of a favourite show, Sunday morning hikes, or outdoor bootcamp classes if you’re fortunate enough to live somewhere that’s on the warmer side in the winter. I’m making sure I have something small planned for each week; it’s nice to have a reason to do your makeup once in a while, even if it’s just for a Zoom hang.

Giving My Day Some Structure: since we have no kids in school or preschool this winter there is no structure whatsoever to our days, especially Monday to Friday while Tom is working. As much as we talk about kiddos thriving on routine I think I need it even more. I know that listlessness for me always seems to lead to sadness (boohoo!) so I try to carve out the most minimal of routines without putting too much pressure on myself (because the fourth trimester is tough enough). Taking the kids for a walk each morning, baking on Mondays, painting projects on Tuesdays, Wine Wednesdays (just kidding, not really), movie nights on Pizza Fridays, just finding any way to keep the weeks tickin’ along!

Making Some (Regular!) Time for Myself: this is something I have previously been so bad at. Like..I haven’t done it yet and I’m on my third child. When I read the part of “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle where she talks about how our children need “a model not a martyr” it really resonated with me, but I haven’t put it into regular practice yet (I’ll blame pregnancy and postpartum for that). I have an appointment with my pelvic floor physio coming up and I’m hoping she’ll clear me to start running again – this activity, for me, is the holy grail combo of exercise + therapy (cardio is stress relief!) + getting out of the house (SAHM’s need time outside of the house) + no cost + pandemic friendly + can do it year-round.

Treating my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder): I have always struggled with this, but I no longer “treat” it by going to a tanning salon (ugh! Can’t believe I used to do that so often!). I’m thinking about trying Light Therapy this year and maybe Vitamin D pills as well. Please let me know if you’ve made any strides treating SAD! I’d love to hear some success stories.

Practicing Gratitude (at least more often than I practice negativity): the focuses that we feed become bigger over time, and being thankful for what you’ve got is a practice that you can strengthen like a muscle. It can be stress-relieving to have a good rant once in a while but I’ve been trying not to get too caught up in all of the things I can’t do this winter and all of the negative aspects about this pandemic. During a really tough time in my life I started writing down 3 things I was grateful for in a little dollar store journal every day, and I highly recommend it for anyone who feels bogged down by negativity (it’s a practice I stole from Liz Gilbert, the author of “Eat, Pray, Love”).

I’d love to hear any ways that you’re preparing yourself for the upcoming winter, especially if you also live in a place with a long winter! Hopefully we will all emerge in the spring time with our sanity intact, freshly vaccinated against Covid-19 and with good habits and wonderful tools for self care.

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